Monday, January 5, 2015

January Performer Spotlight: Mary Strawberry

Photo by Costello Knight
I have had the pleasure of seeing Mary Strawberry grow as a performer from her kittening, to very first performances to where she is now.  She has come a very long way and has grown a lot as a performer in a very short period of time.

1. How did you come up with your stage name and tag line?  Does it have a special meaning to you?

My name comes from my Great Aunt Mary, who I was named after, and who meant a lot to me. She was very active during WWII and even in her later days was full of life and kindness. I found out shortly after I started using my stage name that my Dad, whom I am very close to, had wanted my first name to be Mary. Strawberry is a combination of my love of the fruit, the color of my hair, and the fact that rhyming names are easier to remember. 

My current tagline - onstage or off stage, she's sure to dazzle you with her...wits! - just came to me in a moment while preparing for a show. I like it because it reminds people that I'm also a technician, and I enjoy intelligent conversations and learning, while still being sexy. 

2. How did you get started in burlesque?

I've always been fascinated by the human body; the shapes it has and the way it moves, and I've always been passionate about dancing. It seemed like a logical progression from there. I love that I can combine so many things that I'm passionate about while empowering myself and other people to feel good about themselves and their bodies. Technically my first strip was my senior project for my BA in performance studies... My project was on the difference between sexuality and sensuality and the use of the body in performance and art. My mom was in the front row. It was very nerve-wracking.

3. What has been your best moment as a performer so far?

Being able to travel more and being so warmly welcomed everywhere I go has been great. I've been invited to potlucks, shows, and other great events across North America and it really warms my heart and makes me love this community so much more. 

On a more serious note, I had a devastating moment earlier this year where I got my first festival rejection letter. However, I took it in stride and instead of getting defensive, I decided use it to recognize that I have a lot more work to do in order to improve myself as a performer. It's really motivated me to take more classes, talk with more performers, and spend more time and energy practicing and perfecting all the elements of my acts.

4. What is your favorite act to perform?

I love all my acts for different reasons. They're all so distinct from each other. Sasquatch has probably been on the top of my choreographed numbers though, since I always get such interesting reactions to it. I've gotten everything from nonstop laughter to people feeling strange about how hot they thought it was to appalled looks. I've even had people say they see it as my signature act. It adds something to the experience when the audience can both enjoy the show and feel changed by it. 

5. What is your burlesque dream show?

I'd love to eventually showcase something at BHoF (Burlesque Hall of Fame) in Vegas. It's a great place to see incredible acts from around the world, and I've met some wonderful performers and true friends while attending and working backstage there. I'm not to that level yet, but I will be someday! For now, I'm hoping to be able to workshop a new number at BurlyCon next fall. I have so much respect for the opinions of my peers, especially when they have been dancing longer than me.

Photo by Marc Turnley
6. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I'd love to continue to travel as a dancer. It's one of my favorite parts of this job because not only do I get to do what I love, I also get to meet wonderful people and see new places along the way. Five years from now it would be great, although very ambitious, to be able to say that I've performed in at least half the states and a handful of other countries.

7. Tell us something outside of burlesque that you are involved or interested in.

My "day job" is actually still very artistic. I design and build sets, props, and costumes for theaters all over Atlanta and currently teach theater carpentry at a grade school and a university. It's been an interesting challenge trying to keep my two lives separate at certain times!

8. What do you think is your greatest skill, not including burlesque?

I'm a doer, not a talker. If I have a dream, even if it's intimidating or lofty, I will find a way to make it happen. It drives me crazy when people talk about their dreams and desires but never do anything to achieve them. Working hard to be happy and do what I love is so gratifying and fulfilling, and has taken me a long way in life already.

9. What are you most looking forward to this year as a burlesque performer? As a civilian?

As a performer I'm most looking forward to getting my first festival acceptance as a solo performer. I got to compete, and win, with the Greater Atlanta Goddess Society this fall and it was a great experience. Now I'm hoping that all my hard work and positive energy will get me accepted on my own.

As a civilian, I just finished my application for grad school. I've fallen in love with a program out in Austin, Texas, a city I visited for the first time this summer, and I'd love to use it to deepen my understanding of the history of performance arts and become a better performer. If I'm accepted, I'll be the first woman in my family to get a masters degree.

10. Who is your favorite performer to watch?

There are so many! I'm infatuated with a lot of the Seattle performers... I'll admit I had to contain a fangirl freakout last summer when Waxie Moon asked me to help him with his costume backstage at BHoF. Getting to go to BurlyCon this year and take classes with Iva Handfull, Paris Original, and so many other incredible performers was mind-blowing. I'm always amazed by the very athletic performers who clearly spend a lot of time perfecting their craft. I also love edgy artists who break expectations, like Bunny Mew-Guns, Tigger!, and World Famous Bob.

Photo by Marc Turnley
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